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August 24, 2015

Transition Time Ideas

Written By: Brandi Jordan
X Managing Transition Times with Ease

Managing Transition Times with EaseAh, transition times.  When you have a firm grasp on managing them, they are no problem at all. Your students know the routine, you’re confident in your ability to guide them, and everything flows smoothly.  However, when getting a handle on them is proving to be more challenging than not, transition times can be some of the most stressful parts of the day.  Knowing how to keep students on track and refocus their attention is part innate skill and part experience.  The beginning of the school year can be especially tough for this, so there’s no better time to review some great transition time tactics.  Check out the three below to get you started on the road to easy transitions.


How to Make Transition Times Easier

Marvelous Music

Kindergarten and preschool teachers make good use of the “Clean-up Song” when they want students to transition from one activity to another, but teachers of older students can also use music to help.  Introduce a fun, upbeat, 2-3 minute song at the beginning of the school year that is your transition song.  When the song comes on, students know that they have until the song is over to move on to the next activity.  Need more than one song?  Have a playlist of short songs on your mp3 player and use one for each transition time.


Beat the Clock

Make transition times fun with a “beat-the-clock” style game.  Set your timer for 2-3 minutes and reward students with an incentive if they are ready to go on to the next activity before the timer goes off.  The incentive can be an extra minute of free time at the end of the week or a point for the day’s challenge.  If the students complete all of the day’s transitions before the timer goes off, have a special incentive for them for them.


Story Time

What to do during those extra moments before your class heads in to the gymnasium for P.E.  Instead of asking them to stand quietly with nothing to do, create a class story that everyone contributes to.  Begin by starting with a generic sentence and have each student in line add a sentence to the story.  Institute as many or as few rules to the activity as needed.


What are some of your favorite transition time activities?  Share with us by leaving a comment below!

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  • Liz
    September 25, 2011

    I always give the kids who I know have trouble with transitions 10, 5, and 2 minute warnings so they know its coming.

  • Kellie
    September 20, 2011

    This is simple: I ring a bell once, my students clean up. I ring the bell twice; they stand and point to their next station. My first graders mastered this in about a week. It takes about 1 minute to clean up, and 10 seconds to walk to the next station.

  • Lisa
    September 6, 2011

    Transitioning is tough. I play a short, calming song on the CD player and students know they are to be in their places and on task before it stops. I like The World Is A Rainbow by Greg & Steve or Hawaiian music. These are calming songs and do not add to the transitioning dilemna.

    For cleaning up centers, we are sing the Barney song…clean up, clean up, Everybody everywhere, clean up, clean up, Everybody do your share (3X). Once it has been sung 3 times, all things should be put away and bottoms on the carpet, ready for the daily read aloud.

    I change it up, depending on the task we are transitioning to. For the most part, transitioning through song works best for us. It puts that extra bounce in their step.

  • Julie King
    September 5, 2011

    I like the “Beat the Clock” idea. I have been using this during our class bathroom break. So far, my 18 first graders have managed to get our 9:00 a.m. bathroom/water break to under 5 minutes! they are so focused on finishing quickly that they talk less as well. In the classroom I normally count down to zero during transitions, but using a timer for those times is a great idea.

  • Darlene Daley
    August 30, 2011

    I used a version of beat the clock with great success, but instead of using a timer I use a music box. I find one that plays a song that is not too short or too long. I wind it up before we begin our transitions. I explain to my students that when we are all done with our transitions for the class (or day) I should be able to open the box and still hear music. I open the box when we begin our transition and close when done. Students are so excited to see if they beat the box that transitions are smooth sailing.

  • Courtney McDaniel
    August 30, 2011

    I teach fifth grade and we block. I make it a contest for my groups. They try to see which group can be quietest and the quickest to clean up. They get rewarded by getting to line up first to leave for their next class.

  • Sara Salguero
    August 30, 2011

    Transitions used to be a nightmare. I use songs, clocks, counting, or rhymes like Hands On Top… That Means Stop! If you introduce them at the beginning of the year, it is really helpful!

  • Brian
    August 30, 2011

    I loved using Music as clean up time back when I taught Kindergarten. I even remember the song. I used God Bless The USA by Lee Greenwood! 🙂 They would sing it as they cleaned and almost always everyone would be cleaned up in time!

    Great beat the clock idea. I’ve done that minus the incentive, but I bet adding the incentive would help a lot! I’ll have to give it a try.

    When we are waiting in line I use flash cards for basic addition and subtraction and they can’t talk they hold up the correct number of fingers! I don’t go past 10 due to 10 fingers so this works well!

  • Arlene B
    August 30, 2011

    In our preschool we have one of our “jobs” that a child is selected to do is be the bell ringer or light helper. Ten minutes before cleanup time, the helper rings the bell or flips the lights on and off, then again at five minutes, and two minutes. This gives the children playing time to adjust to the fact that it is cleanup time. Then the lights go off and the clean up song is played. The children’s goal is to be cleaned up and at rug time before the clean up song is finished. The “cleanup inspector” then goes with the TA to make sure everything is cleaned up, as the other children do a song. Rewards such as “High Fives all Around” or sometimes stickers are given for prompt cleanup. Other times transitions such as washing hands, or putting on coats for outside time are done through fun learning songs, color recognition activites, or a specific target goal. This eliminates long lines waiting and helps teachers meet goals or identify areas needing more work.

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